A friend is found on
the open road. And silence
dies a normal death.
There is something inherently lonely about a solo bike tour. I doubt that needs to be overly explained. But what might not be obvious is how little this is really considered when out on the open road by oneself, miles from any small town in rural greater America.
Part of this might have to do with my travel companion, my silent silent partner, my drinking buddy, Faraday Fox. It makes me smile to see his little tail wag in the wind as I ride down the road, he looking like he’s happy to see me. But more so than that, the mere act of riding a bike is one of the best natural anti-depressants I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. So with that, I don’t know if I can recall another week of my life that has been so mentally cleansed. The fact that I’m alone for much of this time never enters into the equation; I’m happy with my own company. And this is a rare feeling for me.
But then again, I’m not really alone. With every little town and city, there are people who stop to ask me about what I’m doing, who find interest and fascination with the fact that I took a month off of every day life to pack some bags and to ride a bicycle cross country. Sometimes they don’t even stop, just ride or drive up along side me to ask where I’m going. While riding through Minneapolis, a guy drove his SUV next to me, rolled down the window, and asked if I was touring. I said yes, and he said how jealous he was. He’d done some touring himself, and then asked if I needed anything. I had just left Indeed Brewery where I caught up with my good friend Andy, so I said I was good and had just been having a few beers. “Well I have beer!” he said, and he pulled over to give me a bottle of Pacifico. I happily accepted.
I took an off day while in the Twin Cities. After five days of riding, it seemed fitting to take a break to see some friends and enjoy the various amenities of the city. After several days of the new, it was nice to enjoy some of the comforts of the familiar, seeing old friends and visiting some favorite haunts.
I spent my first night in town with Anna, a woman I recently dated for a period of time. Due to long distance, the relationship wasn’t progressing, and she started dating someone else. It was odd seeing her again in a non-romantic way, but we had decided to remain friends. It seemed like it was awkward for her too, if only slightly, but she had offered me a place to stay long ago, so she wasn’t prepared to back off her hospitality. Only I had to sleep on the couch this time around.
Taking a break from trail food was more than welcome. Making omelets on Saturday morning felt like a treat. The tacos that friends bought me for lunch, and coincidently, for dinner as well, were absolutely delicious. And a trip over to Merlin’s Rest, a bar with over 300 different bottles of scotch, was a little slice of heaven for this former drinking-prohibited-Christian.
The off day finished with a light-rail ride over to St. Paul, where I stayed the night with Jeremy and Crystal, the owners of Lowertown Bike Shop. Jeremy, too, was formerly a member of the Independent Apostolic Lutheran Church, so we had our respective apostasies in common, as well as a love of bicycles.
And on Sunday morning, I packed everything back up to carry on down the road. But one thing that I realized I had spent very little time thinking about was the fact that it was Labor Day weekend, which was always a big deal in my former church. Every year on this weekend, people from all different congregations would get together at one church, with more than 1,000 people praising God and condemning everyone else to Hell, all in one place. Despite the fact that I left the church to get away from negative preachings and make-believe fear-mongering, I also lost an enormous social network when I walked away. It was a package deal; drop one, lose the other. And I’ve been haunted in one way or another ever since by the sudden loss of so many people in my life. But as time has gone by, I’ve made new friends, and have become involved with different organizations. I’ve found more value in myself as well, not to mention the value in others.
And my life, in turn, has become less lonely. Especially when I spend weekends like this experiencing the things that are beautiful in the world, instead of condemning it for not being Heaven.